It’s all too easy to skip the niceties of a beautiful life in the name of ease and convenience. Sadly, I see many people opting for paper plates and paper towels rather than real dishes and cloth napkins. But it really isn’t that difficult to set a cozy supper table. It just takes a bit of a mindset change.
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Cloth Napkins and Real Dishes
I do understand that to some, cloth napkins might seem a bit fussy these days. In fact, I was surprised to read a couple of articles about the fact that paper napkins are becoming obsolete. Apparently people are using paper towels instead.
I began using cloth napkins several years ago but until that point I always bought paper napkins which I folded into a triangle and placed to the left of the plate, just like my mother taught me.
I was still using paper towels in those days, too, but it never occurred to me to substitute those for paper napkins. And I’ve even noticed a fair number of folks who don’t even bother with paper towels unless eating something with the fingers.
It’s really not that difficult or time-consuming to use cloth napkins. I happen to like mine ironed but then again, I’m the one who irons her pillow cases every week, too. In fact, I generally iron napkins while I have the ironing board set up to iron pillow cases. It takes only a few minutes and I like the looks of an ironed napkin.
But if you remove them from the dryer immediately, smooth and fold right away, most cloth napkins are perfectly fine for day-to-day family use.
Another option is to use fingertip towels for napkins. These wash and dry very easily and of course, require no ironing.
My recommendation is to buy dark colored napkins so stains are not much of an issue. Have you noticed that many restaurants these days use black napkins? While I do have a variety of cloth napkins, including white, our usual choice for a family dinner is black, as you can see in this photo:
These are the ones I have:
First of all, allow me to say that I absolutely believe there are circumstances when paper plates are a reasonable choice. A new baby, elderly folks with mobility issues, illness, large parties, etc. Years ago when we remodeled our kitchen I used paper plates almost exclusively because I’m not a fan of washing dishes in a bathtub.
About a decade ago I got more serious about eco-issues and started eliminating disposables, a little at a time. Until then, I kept paper plates on hand and it wasn’t unusual for us to use them for a lunchtime sandwich. However, we always used the “real dishes” for dinners (except during the aforementioned kitchen remodeling).
Until we all started posting pictures of our meals on Facebook and Instagram I didn’t realize how many people eat all their meals on paper plates. I’ll see the most delicious-looking meals on a paper plate and this always surprises me.
I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m being judgmental or snobbish. Honestly, I believe we all deserve to live our lives according to our own standards and that our homes should be a place of comfort and respite.
We tend to repeat the patterns of behavior we grew up with. If your mom served dinner on paper plates with paper towels instead of napkins, that seems like the norm and you’re likely to do the same.
My mom wasn’t “fancy”. We ate on real dishes and used paper napkins but it wasn’t unusual for us to eat on T.V. trays in front of the television. I was the one who would occasionally ask if we could use the good china and silver. When I was in high school we lived in a large home with a formal dining room. We also had an informal dining room but most of the time we ate at the bar in our recreation room with the T.V. on. I loved our beautiful dining room, though, and once in awhile I’d get out the china, polish the silver and set the table. The rest of the family would humor me and my “fancy” ways.
We don’t have a separate dining room in this house, something I do miss. But we have a breakfast nook in the kitchen where we eat most of our meals. As you can see in the picture below, it is far from fancy. My wedding china and Mom’s silver would look a little silly in here so on more formal occasions I set up a table in our family room. The rest of the time we use our everyday dishes and flatware at the kitchen table.
Like so many aspects of homemaking, it doesn’t take much to elevate the everyday and make it just a tiny bit special. And I honestly find that I enjoy putting a little effort into making things prettier.
If you’re in the paper plate and paper towel habit, I challenge you to pull out the real dishes and then set the table for just one dinner this coming week. If you have cloth napkins, use those, too. If not, consider purchasing an inexpensive package of paper napkins. If you have any flowers blooming in your yard, cut a few and put them in a vase on the table or create some other type of centerpiece. Maybe even light a candle or two.
Take your time and enjoy a relaxed meal at the table with your family (or even just by yourself). You might just find yourself doing this on a regular basis.
What about you? Do you set the table with real dishes and napkins? If so, is that what you grew up with? Likewise, if you prefer paper plates and paper towels, it that because you are just used to it? Is it a habit you’d like to change? Or is this simply not something that matters to you one way or another? I’d love to hear your thoughts…and no judgment from me!
Note: My dishes came from Walmart over 15 years ago. They aren’t Fiesta but look very similar.
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